Andrew Johns
Andrew Johns

Remember when NSW went three in a row?

KIDS of today would find this hard to believe, but New South Wales once dominated State of Origin.

So much so, there was talk Australia's most famous interstate sporting series was on its death bed because of Queensland's lack of success.

From 2003 to 2005, New South Wales won three-straight series.

Immortal Andrew "Joey" Johns and Brad "Freddy" Fittler had influences on those teams similar to present-day Queensland champions Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk, Greg Inglis and Johnathan Thurston.

Danny Buderus, captain of the Blues in 2004 and 2005 said Johns was simply in a league of his own.

That was particularly so in 2003 when he dominated the series after copping a rev-up from coach Phil "Gus" Gould, which was quickly seized upon by the Sydney media.

"Joey's dominance back then all started with Gus saying Queenslanders had more passion for Origin than we did, and he singled out Joey," Buderus told Australian Regional Media.

"Joey's form at the time was okay, but it worked - I think that was Gus' plan all along, and he played the right cards."

In 2005, Johns came back from injury for Game II of that series.

And Buderus said the training sessions leading up to that game - where the No.7 played a part in every Blues try in their 32-22 win - were some of the best he'd been a part of.

"Sure, Wally Lewis is the king of Origin, but back then Joey was to NSW what Lockyer was to Queensland," Buderus said.

He also said one moment in particular at training during the 2004 series, involving Fittler who came out of representative retirement before Game II and helped mastermind a 2-1 series triumph, would live with him forever.

"Our first training session with Freddy was okay, but a couple of times he looked at me, and then he said, 'I'll see you after training'," Buderus said.

"A couple of guys were probably cutting corners, but I didn't think anything of it at the time.

"Afterwards he told me 'you're the captain, don't you ever let that happen again - you set the standards'.

"That has always stuck with me."

Another thing from that era that has stuck with Buderus was seeing Smith make his State of Origin debut for the Maroons in 2003.

Thirteen years later, now-Queensland captain Smith is set to break Lockyer's record of 36 interstate clashes at ANZ Stadium in game one of this year's series.

"Just his calmness and the time he had with the ball - nothing ever seemed to fluster Cameron," Buderus said.

"Fair play to Queensland, they went on to dominate largely because they had such a stable spine in the nine, six, seven and one positions, while NSW has probably had over 20 different halves combinations.

"They (Queensland) have maybe had a bit of luck too - you think back to 2007 and 2008 and Israel Folau was flying above the pack and scoring freakish one-handed tries."



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